Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from David Hume, 7 February 1772

From David Hume

ALS: Harvard University Library

Edinburgh 7 of Feby 1772

Dear Sir

I was very glad to hear of your safe Arrival in London, after being expos’d to as many Perils, as St. Paul, by Land and by Water: Though to no Perils among false Brethren:7 For the good Wishes of all your Brother Philosophers in this place attend you heartily and sincerely, together with much Regret that your Business wou’d not allow you to pass more time among them.

Brother Lin expects to see you soon, before he takes his little Trip round the World. You have heard, no doubt, of that Project: The Circumstances of the Affair coud not be more honourable for him, nor coud the Honour be conferd on one who deserves it more.8

I really believe with the French Author, of whom you have favourd me with an Extract, that the Circumstance of my being a Scotchman has been a considerable Objection to me: So factious is this Country! I expected, in entering on my literary Course, that all the Christians, all the Whigs, and all the Tories shoud be my Enemies: But it is hard, that all the English, Irish, and Welsh shoud be also against me. The Scotch, likewise, cannot be much my Friends, as no man is a Prophet in his own Country. However, it is some Consolation that I can bear up my Head under all this Prejudice.9

I fancy that I must have recourse to America for Justice. You told me, I think, that your Countrymen in that part of the World intended to do me the Honour of giving an Edition of my Writings; and you promisd that you shoud recommend to them to follow this last Edition, which is in the Press.1 I now use the Freedom of reminding you of it.

Pray, make my Compliments to Sir John Pringle, and tell him how much I wish for his Company; and be so good as give him a Description of the House I reserve for him in this Square.2 If you really go over to America, we hope you will not grudge us Sir John as a Legacy. I am Dear Sir with great Truth and Regard Your most obedient humble Servant

David Hume

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7II Corinthians 11: 26. BF’s perils by water were in crossing from Ireland to Scotland between two hurricanes.

8For Dr. James Lind (1736–1812) see the DNB. Joseph Banks had invited him to be one of the scientists on Capt. Cook’s second circumnavigation of the globe, and Parliament had granted Lind £4,000 for the purpose. He, Banks, and their group withdrew from the expedition in May, 1772, and went instead to Iceland; John Reinhold Forster then became Cook’s naturalist. Arthur Kitson, Captain James Cook … (London, 1907), pp. 228–9, 234–8.

9The French author, like BF’s letter that quoted him, seems to have vanished without trace. Hume’s anger at his enemies, particularly the Scots, was greater than this cheery list of them suggests. He was never again going to expose himself, he told another correspondent a few weeks later, to “such factious and passionate readers as this country abounds in.” John Y. T. Greig, ed., The Letters of David Hume (2 vols., Oxford, 1932), II, 255. The passionate readers were presumably those who supported James Beattie, a professor at Marischal College, who in 1770 had launched an attack on Hume that went through many editions and was widely acclaimed at the time. See Ernest C. Mossner, The Life of David Hume (Austin, Tex., 1954), pp. 577–82.

1Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects … (2 vols., London, 1772). Hume’s hope was disappointed: no American edition of his works appeared before his death in 1776.

2Hume’s new house on St. Andrew Square was entered from St. David St., which was supposedly renamed for him. See Mossner, op. cit., pp. 562–3, 565–6, 620.

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